Whooping Cranes Arrive at St. Marks in an Unconventional Way
by Pam Rotella
13 February 2016
ST. MARKS, FLORIDA - Last Saturday, February 6th, birdwatchers gathered to watch Operation Migration's final ultra-light-guided whooping crane migration. The weather had prevented flights for the previous week, and Saturday had been predicted to be calmer.
Then the word came. There would be no final flight into St. Marks. The birds would be boxed and transported to the final stop. Later, Operation Migration's "In the Field" blog gave an explanation by Heather Ray:
"Unfortunately winds proved to be too strong this morning so we're down.
"With no decent weather in the forseeable future and not wanting to delay the migration any longer, we're going to crate the young Whooping cranes the remaining distance."
This was an unconventional end to what may be the group's last ultra-light guided whooping crane migration. In a controversial decision, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to end the ultra-light program before trying other new methods.
For those waiting to see the cranes arrive, Jo-Ann Bellemer and other Operation Migration representatives relayed the additional explanation that it was already late in the migration season, weather for the next few days was predicted to be just as bad, and they wanted to give the birds time in Florida before other birds began migrating north again.
Operation Migration moved its arrival event to the St. Marks NWR Visitor Center, where the Wildlife, Heritage, and Outdoor Festival (WHO) would be held later that day.
[NOTE: This story will be updated with photos and other information.]
All original content including photographs © 2016 by Pam Rotella.